PESHAWAR: The government released another eight senior Taliban leaders on Monday to help the Afghan peace process prior to the Nato withdrawal, sources said.
Well-placed Afghan Taliban sources said Pakistani authorities took eight senior Taliban leaders to Karachi and freed them on Monday.
Those released included Mulla Nooruddin Turabi, former Taliban minister for justice; Mulla Abdul Bari Agha, former Taliban governor in Helmand; Mir Ahmad Gul, former Taliban governor in Nangarhar; Mulla Daud, former governor in Kabul; and Mohammad Azam. The names of the remaining two released leaders could not be confirmed.
It was learnt that Mohammad Azam had worked in the office of Taliban supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar. He was arrested in Pakistan.
Taliban sources said Nooruddin Turabi was considered close to Mulla Omar when the Taliban were in power. “He belongs to Kandahar. He spent most of his time in Kandahar and Quetta when the Taliban regime was toppled by the US. He was arrested by the Pakistani security agencies from Karachi five years ago,” a senior Taliban commander told this correspondent, pleading anonymity.
He said Turabi had lost his right leg and suffered an injury to his eye during jihad against the Soviet occupation forces. “Mulla Mohammad Omar had delegated him most of his powers and authorized him to appoint governors and ministers. He was considered one of the most powerful Taliban ministers. Even senior Taliban ministers would avoid confrontation with him,” the former Taliban commander said.
Mulla Abdul Bari Agha too was considered an influential figure in the Taliban hierarchy. He was arrested in Pakistan after Nooruddin Turabi’s capture.
The third senior Taliban leader released by Pakistan was Mir Ahmad Gul, commonly known as Mir Saib. He belongs to Logar province and served as the governor of Nangarhar.
Mulla Daud hails from Logar and remained the governor of Kabul during the Taliban rule.
One of the freed prisoners told Afghan Taliban colleagues that they were held in different places in Pakistan but were taken to Karachi a few days before their release. He said some of the released Afghan Taliban prisoners had developed psychological disorders during long detention and were, therefore, not feeling well when freed.
“We were looked after properly in jail and provided with better food, but prison is prison,” said the Taliban commander while quoting the released prisoner as saying.
Also, the Taliban sources said though the Afghan Taliban had welcomed the release of their former senior commanders, they would not be given any important responsibility in the movement. “Once you are arrested and released, you are not trusted by the leadership as in the past,” the Taliban leader said.